By Lin Taylor
LONDON, Nov 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fancy some roasted crickets for a light snack? Look no further than in the local supermarket aisles.
Sainsbury's has become the first British supermarket chain to stock edible insects in a bid to boost sustainable food sources that produce fewer greenhouse gases.
"Insect snacks should no longer be seen as a gimmick or something for a dare," said Rachel Eyre, head of future brands at Sainsbury's.
"It's clear that consumers are increasingly keen to explore this new sustainable protein source," Eyre said in a statement.
Nutritionists and scientists have long touted insect consumption for humans as a sustainable and cheap source of protein - though snacking on bugs is a stomach-churning prospect for many.
Insects can be a rich source of fat, protein, vitamins, fibre and minerals, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Global population growth and an expanding middle class have raised per-capita meat consumption by 50 percent over the past four decades, but critics say the trend is environmentally unsustainable.
There are also worries about the environmental impact of intensive crop farming and commercial fishing.
"As the population increases, we urgently need to look at alternative protein sources to make the most of land available for food production," said Duncan Williamson, a global food system expert at environmental group WWF UK.
"Insects are incredibly sustainable and can help to reduce our carbon footprint," he said in a statement.
Globally, at least 2 billion people eat insects - which require far less land and water than cattle - and more than 1,900 species have been used for food, according to the FAO.
Edible insect company Eat Grub, whose Netherlands-farmed crickets will be stocked in 250 Sainsbury's stores, said nearly 10 percent of British people had tried eating insects.
But it wants more consumers to include the critters in their diet - be it eating roasted crickets as a snack or using cricket flour in baking.
"We're on a mission to show the West that as well as having very strong sustainability and environmental credentials, they are also seriously tasty," said Eat Grub co-founder Shami Radia.
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)
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